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A Report from

Corsica August 2012 ,

E.J. Alblas


Our family went to Corsica this summer for several reasons. First of all we wanted to have a relaxing holiday with a nice beach and good weather and Corsica has all this on offer. Secondly our children wanted to visit France (my daughter to practice her French) and last but not least Corsica has some interesting endemic birds. Although I have been to Corsica before and saw most endemics like Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Finch, I still missed the endemic race of Treecreeper (corsa) that can be evaluated to a full species in the future (like has happened with Corsican Finch). There was also a possibility to see California Quail, an established introduced species, that can be interesting for some rankings.

We decided to stay near Ghisonaccia because of the nice beaches and the central location (in the middle of the island), close to the mountains, the Bastia airport and the main attractions like Bonfacio and Corte. The weather didn't disappoint and it was sometimes even too hot (35+) to do anything else but swimming. The food in general and the often mentioned tranquillity of the island was however quite disappointing and we ended up in traffic jams along the coastal road N198 more than ones. Corsica is also an expensive island, let alone the costs of getting there by ferry or plane. We hired a car for the full two weeks of our stay and used it every day, but it took us some time to get used to this French car full of electronic gadgets like an electronic key, -doors, -fuel tank cover, -handbrake, etc.

In order to see corsa Treecreeper I visted several sites in the mountains. For California Quail I visited several sites north of Ghisonaccia. I usually got up at 6 a.m. and went out birding for a few hours, picking up fresh bread before returning to our accommodation around 10 a.m. when the rest of the family was just awake. The rest of the day was mostly spent on the beach.

While birding I saw all the endemic (sub)species. The endemic bird taxa for Corsica are:

Corsican Nuthatch                  Sitta whiteheadi
Crossbill                                Loxia (curvirostra) corsicana
Treecreeper                          Certhia (familiaris) corsa
Great Spotted Woodpecker     Dendrocopus major parroti
Chaffinch                             Fringilla coelebs tyrrhenica
Jay                                     Garrulus glandarius corsicanus

There are also a number of near-endemic (sub)species on Corsica who share their distribution with nearby islands in the Mediterranean. These near-endemic bird taxa are:

Goshawk                     Accipiter gentilis arrigonii                  (Sardinia)
Sparrowhawk              Accipiter nisus wolterstorffi                (Sardinia)
Buzzard                      Buteo buteo arrigonii                         (Sardinia)
Barn Owl                    Tyto alba ernesti                              (Sardinia)
Wren                          Troglodytes troglodytes koenigi         (Sardinia)
Marmora’s Warbler     Sylvia sarda                                       (Sardinia and some small Italian Islands)
Moltoni’s Warbler       Sylvia subalpina                                 (Sardinia and Balearics)
Spotted Flycatcher      Muscipapa (striata) tyrrhenica           (Sardinia)
Woodchat Shrike        Lanius (senator) badius                       (Sardinia, Balearics and some small Italian Islands)
Coal Tit                       Parus ater sardus                            (Sardinia)
Corsican Finch            Serinus corsicana                              (Sardinia, Elba)
Greenfinch                  Carduelis chloris madaraszi               (Sardinia)
Goldfinch                   Carduelis carduelis tschusii               (Sardinia, Elba and Sicily)

Of all these I never saw arrigonii Goshawk and ernesti Barn Owl, but all the others were seen on this or earlier trips to Corsica. Marmora’s Warbler was easy in spring 1991 near Corte. 

Sites visited

Below is some information about the sites I visited during my stay on Corsica.


We hired a mobile home at a holiday park called ‘Perla di Mare’, just east of Ghisonaccia and next to the beach. This park is divided in two parts and we were based at the quiet western park of the park. We heard Nightjars and Scops Owls almost every evening and had some of the commoner birds like Spotted Flycatchers, Blue Tits and Great Spotted Woodpecker in our garden.

Étang del Sale

This lake is one of the three sites for California Quail and I tried to find it here on a morning and an afternoon without any success. This lake can be reached by a small track opposite the archaeological site near Aleria. I only saw some of the commoner birds. 

Lac d'Urbino

This lake is situated north-east of Ghisonaccia and can be reached by turning on an access road from the N198. I only visited this lake ones, walking from our accommodation along sandy tracks parallel to the shore, eventually reaching this lake. During this walk I notices a few Moltoni’s Warblers. At the lake there were a few Great Crested Grebes but not much else, although during our stay also a Pygmy Cormorant was present (a rarity in France). 


In this general area there are two more sites for California Quail (contact me if you want more details), which I both tried. Just as I was to give up I heard a California Quail call spontaneous several times just north of Aghione in an area with a lot of vineyards. Although I could locate the place where the bird was calling quite exactly, I never saw it. The area around Aghione was also good for other birds like Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Sardinian- and Moltoni’s Warblers, Red-backed Shrike, badius Woodchat Shrike, Gold- and Greenfinch and Jay. I also heard and saw a group of Corsican Finches here perched on a wire, proving that Corsican Finch also occurs at sea level.

Col de Sorba

This Col is a good place to see Corsican Nuthatch. Near the highest point (where there is a sign saying 'Col de Sorba 1311 m') is space to park a car and a pair of Corsican Nuthatch was found here almost immediately. Other common birds were Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Treecreeper (only heard) and Goldcrest.

The road D69 has improved a lot but the road D344 from Ghissonaccia to Ghisoni is horrible to drive and I wouldn't advise you to use this road. When coming from the east it is better to use the D343 to Vezzani and Vivario and then approach the Col de Sorba from the west, using the D69. The driving here is much more relaxed with light traffic and goes through nice habitat, like the Col d'Erbajo (see below).

Gorge de la Restonica

The entrance to this gorge is well indicated in Corte. Although a popular tourist attraction, the road gets a lot narrower if you drive deeper into this valley and there is no space anywhere to park a car. Very hairy to drive and if you make it to the end, you have to pay to park your car.

I went there at first light and left before the first traffic arrived, but yet the left mirror of the car was hit by an oncoming car.

Col d'Erbajo

Situated along the D343 between Vivario (Muracciole) and Vezzani. There is an area of mature pines here with a sign saying 'Col d'Erbajo Altitude 920m' and a picnic area a little before where you can park the car and have a walk. The area is good for Corsican Nuthatch (only heard) and other forest birds like Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Raven, Buzzard, etc.


A 'must see' for anyone visiting Corsica but it is best to be here early before most tourists arrive. We took a boat trip along the coast in order to fully appreciate the spectacular cliffs. Bird wise I only saw Pallid Swift, Italian Sparrow and Shag but on an earlier trip in May 1991 Blue Rock Thrush was seen on the castle walls in the village and Scopoli's- and Yelkouan Shearwater from the shore. The whole coast, just east of the village, is good for Sylvia warblers, Tawny Pipit and badius Woodchat Shrike but was not visited this time.

Col de Bavella

This Col lies on the D-268, between Solenzara and Zonza. The road from Solenzara to Col de Bavella is good and at the Col itself is plenty of opportunity to park a car. There are several marked walking tracks that start in the small village. This village also had a few small wells that attracted a lot of birds. This is the only place on the island where I saw numerous corsicana Crossbills (100+) and also Corsican Finch was very common. I took one of the tracks into the forest and after 20 minutes of searching I finally not only heard but also saw a corsa Treecreeper. A nice birthday present! Other birds recorded here were Robin, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Coal Tit, Jay and Chaffinch. To me this seems one of the best and easiest places on the island to see the endemics including Corsican Nuthatch which has been seen here by other birders. The scenery is also stunning, so you can take your family here for a nice day in the mountains and see some good birds as well.

Birds seen

Great Crested Grebe


only seen Lac d’Urbino



only seen coast Bonifatio

Red Kite


quite common



only one bird Col de Sorba






two hunting in the evening near Ghisonaccia



heard near campsite Ghisonaccia

California Quail


one heard vineyards near Algheri on 11-08

Yellow-legged Gull



Rock Dove


only domesticated birds?




Collared Dove



Turtle Dove



Scops Owl


at least two were calling every evening near our accommodation near Ghisonaccia



we heard the frog like call and purring of several Nightjars every evening near our accommodation

Common Swift



Pallid Swift


several on seacliffs near Bonifatio



one River Tavignano



several heard Tavignano



several seen

Great Spotted Woodpecker


quite common forests

Crag Martin


river Tavignano




House Martin


quite common in villages

Grey Wagtail


river Tavignano, Gorge de la Restonica



1 seen near Algheri


witherbyi // rubecula

quite common




Fan-tailed Warbler


several near Ghisonaccia

Moltoni’s Warbler


several seen and heard near Algheri, also at Lac d’Urbino

Sardinian Warbler


several seen and heard



quite common



common in forests



several near Algheri

Spotted Flycatcher


very common

Long-tailed Tit


quite common and seen at different sports

Coal Tit


very common forests

Blue Tit


quite common

Great Tit


quite common

Corsican Nuthatch


two at Col de Sorba



after hearing birds at Col de Sorba, Col d’Erbajo and Gorge de la Restonica 1 bird was finally seen at Col de Bavella on 17-08

Red-backed Shrike


only seen Aghione

Woodchat Shrike


1 juvenile near Aghione




Hooded Crow


quite common


hispanus // corax

several seen in mountain areas

Spotless Starling


quite common

Italian Sparrow


quite common, the only sparrow seen



quite common

Corsican Finch


5 birds Aghione, several near River Tavignano and very common Col de Bavella



quite common



quite common



quite common



only seen Col de Bavella where very common

Cirl Bunting


quite common

If you would like more information please contact:

E.J. Alblas, the Netherlands. ej.alblas at


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